PS (presenilin)-dependent γ-secretase occurs as a high-molecular-mass complex composed of either PS1 or PS2 associated with Nct (nicastrin), PEN2 (presenilin enhancer 2 homologue) and APH1 (anterior pharynx defective 1 homologue). Numerous reports have documented the very complicated physical and functional cross-talk between these proteins that ultimately governs the biological activity of the γ-secretase, but very few studies examined the fate of the components of the complex. We show that, in both HEK-293 cells and the TSM1 neuronal cell line, the immunoreactivities of overexpressed myc-tagged-APH1a and -PEN2 were enhanced by the proteasome inhibitors ZIE and lactacystin, whereas a broad range of protease inhibitors had no effect. By contrast, proteasome inhibitors were totally unable to affect the cellular expression of endogenous APH1aL and PEN2 in HEK-293 cells, TSM1 and primary cultured cortical neurons. To explain this apparent discrepancy, we examined the degradation of myc-tagged-APH1a and -PEN2, in vitro, by cell extracts containing endogenous proteasome and by purified 20S proteasome. Strikingly, myc-tagged-APH1a and -PEN2 resist proteolysis by endogenous proteasome and purified 20S proteasome. We also show that endogenous PEN2 expression was drastically higher in wild-type than in PS- and Nct-deficient fibroblasts and was enhanced by proteasome inhibitors only in the two deficient cell systems. However, here again, purified 20S proteasome appeared unable to cleave endogenous PEN2 present in PS-deficient fibroblasts. The levels of endogenous APH1aL-like immunoreactivity were not modified by proteasome inhibitors and were unaffected by PS deficiency. Altogether, our results indicate that endogenous PEN2 and APH1aL do not undergo proteasomal degradation under physiological conditions in HEK-293 cells, TSM1 cells and fibroblasts and that the clearance of PEN2 in PS- and Nct-deficient fibroblasts is not mediated by 20S proteasome. Whether the 26S proteasome participates to PEN2 proteolysis in deficient fibroblasts remains to be established.

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